As soccer fans around the world unite alongside their fellow countrymen and cheer on their local heroes, there is not doubt that one thing crosses every fan’s mind: Iker Casillas lifting the golden trophy that symbolizes so many dreams with his Spanish teammates celebrating behind him. Not only did Spain win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but it was part of a triple success story. Two years previous and two years after the 2010 World Cup, Spain were twice the victors of the European cup, meaning this generation of Spanish players are considered some of the best and most successful their nation and the world has ever seen. Two years ago many doubted it was possible to win a third trophy in a row, and the world was proven wrong. However, in order to be successful at this year’s World Cup in Brazil, Spain will have to put on a performance unimaginable to any fan.
First and foremost, it has become clear to many critics and fans alike, that this generation of Spanish players has aged itself out. From their world class goal keeper, Casillas, to their midfield maestros in Xavi Herandes and Andres Iniesta, the clock is simply ticking. Back in 2008, when the Spaniards had won their first trophy in decades in Vienna, a promising new generation of young talent and tactics was born. However, in just six short years, the team has accomplished everything imaginable, but it has payed a price. Herandes and Iniesta have played together for over a decade at Barcelona and Spain, which had allowed them to grow together, but now that they are near the end, it is hard to imagine them keeping up with an entire World Cup campaign. Although their mental game is one of the most admired in the sport, their physical fitness is now questionable.
“Spain won’t win it again,” junior Griffin Kendziorski said. “Their main players from the 2010 World Cup are getting old and a younger team like Germany or Brazil will win.”
Another extremely worrying factor for “La Roja” is the absence of a true striker. At each of their previous victories on the world stage, Spain had a target man up top, which is not coincidentally a common factor for successful World Cup Teams. With the exception of the Euro 2012 in Ukraine, Spain were able to use Fernando Torres and David Villa as targets and key goal scorers. However, in previous years, the Spaniards have been forced to play with a false number nine, meaning that they have a high attacking midfielder play the role of striker. This tactic is extremely flawed and can only work in situations with a poor defense and intense possession. Many of Spain’s hopes now lies with a promising young talent: Diego Costa.
“Spain will need to efficiently include Diego Costa into the squad or allow Fernando Torres to find his form on the pitch,” junior Nick Coon said.
Although Spain clearly faces new challenges and situations that they have not been forced to deal with before, there are some signs that they could very well be on their way to a fourth victory in four tournaments on the world stage. New young talent has risen recently in the Spanish league, as well as in other areas of Europe that suggest positive results are a bright as the spanish sun. With players such as Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Diego Costa making their presence known across the world recently, there are signs of success in the early stages of the tournament.
“Juan Mata and other young players should be given the opportunity to play and not be forced under the shadow of players like Iniesta and Xavi,” junior Arturo Cuellar said.
However, with a team like the Netherlands kicking off in the first game against Spain, two teams of promising talent could cancel each other out.
“I think Spain could beat Chili and Australia, but draw with the Netherlands,” Kendziorski said. “Whether they do any better than that depends on who they play after the group stage.”
Even though “La Roja” has had its fair share of critics, they remain a favorite to win it all again. Whether they turn out to shock the world for a fourth consecutive time, or leave their fans in utter disappointment, fans will not know until the World Cup plays out. The next month has the world of soccer glued to their televisions in order to see what a group of short, tan, and significantly talented men can accomplish under the Brazilian heat and intense atmosphere.